Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hello, Fiona. Thank you for interviewing me today.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Diana Forbes.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Manhattan, New York.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I write Gilded Age historical fiction. I was fortunate to inherit a box of letters and photographs from my ancestors, who were living the the U.S. during the time my debut novel, Mistress Suffragette, takes place. Their stories, all untold, inspired me to write. I have always been a genuine history buff. I thought that the Women’s Suffrage Movement had received very little attention, and so I decided to set my novel during the very early years of the Movement.
Beyond that, I live and write in Manhattan. I take two writing classes a week where I run chapters through various readers, teachers, and mentors. Then I go back to my office where I tweak, refine, and revise.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Mistress Suffragette has been recognized in 19 award shows, winning the Garcia Memorial Prize for “Best Fiction Book of the Year,” as well as 1st place in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America (RWA) award for Women’s Fiction, among others. Also, I am very proud to say that Mistress Suffragette is now available on Audio. It’s a really fun listen! Brittany Presley is a fabulous narrator.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing as a child—diary entries, followed by articles for the school paper, followed by restaurant reviews for a restaurant guide, followed by feature articles, and theneven more articles. Writing is a lifetime ambition. I keep learning more and more about the form. And, there is always so much more to learn!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably around the age of seven or so. I have to say that my parents took my ambition seriously as well, which helped. In grade school, one of my teachers asked me to help start the school newspaper with her. Then in my second school, I joined the newspaper staff and did sports reporting of all things. My passion for writing continued through college and after. I always knew I was a writer, and the search for me was all about finding the form to best express myself. I have tried writing poetry, articles, letters, short stories, promotional copy for various projects, screenwriting—the whole gamut. I write every single day and don’t feel good unless I have put in at least seven hours a day. I also love doing the research, which I consider “the fun part.” Even when I am not writing, I take advantage of the numerous museums, movies, and cultural offerings Manhattan has in abundance. It’s a really fabulous city for writers, with thousands of stories just waiting to be told.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had a story to tell. I think most writers start with a story, a particular person they want to write about, or a setting.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
This is a great question. I started with a different title that was more flowery and less specific. I attended a conference where the folks there really loved the idea of my story, but yearned for a better hook. And, so I came up with this title. All that said, titles are quite tricky.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Mistress Suffragette is written in the first person, which I enjoy because I feel an intimacy with my characters. Beyond that, there are touches of humor throughout the story. But I also feel that it’s the responsibility of the author to match the style of her writing to the story being told. I love the historical romance genre, and I love doing the research, but the research absolutely adds time to each project. So, as a writer, one has to have the patience to do the research properly.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The book is realistic. Several of the characters are based on real people who lived during the time period. I also used the letters and photographs I had from my own family to give historical flair to the novel. Beyond that I traveled to each and every location in the novel that still exists today. I found ephemera—letters, menus, that sort of thing—to bolster the story.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I started with a story idea, then traveled to the various locales. Then I wrote the book, and went back to all the same places again, this time with an eye toward what I was trying to accomplish in each scene. It may not have been the most efficient way to write, but I wasn’t in a rush. I just wanted to try to get it right.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Mistress Suffragette was published by Penmore Press, and they had the cover designed.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I feel that a lot of women believe that there is a trade-off between being in love and being independent. I started with that as an idea, and it’s thematically explored in Mistress Suffragette.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I re-read all the classics. Last week, I caught a version of “Anna Karenina” I had never seen before on television, and so I decided to re-read the novel. I like thinking about what each writer’s greatest strength is. Probably my favorite novelist of all time, though, is Edith Wharton.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have taken a lot of writing classes in Manhattan, where I found a great deal of support from fellow writers, teachers, and mentors. Writing a novel takes years, and I don’t think I could have done it without feeling like I was in a community where I was free to share my ideas. I’ve always given other writers a great deal of feedback as well because that’s the only way we can all grow, learn, and become better writers.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I write for at least seven hours a day, and attend a lot of classes, conferences, and readings—so yes.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. It took me about five years to write that book, so I felt comfortable with the characters, their arcs, and the general thru-line of the story.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes. I think writing a book changes the writer a little. The characters go through a journey, and so does the author. I mainly learned to have more patience since the whole project took longer than I ever dreamed possible.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I will leave that to the powers-that-be when the time is right.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I don’t believe in “write what you know.” I believe in “write what you love.” If you write what you love, the whole process will be much more delightful. The other thing is that I think writing is like baking a soufflé. You may want to hurry the process, but you have to stand back and let it rise. Don’t be so impatient. Take the time you need to get it right.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope my readers enjoy my story. I hope they have fun reading it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am reading a non-fiction book about nineteenth century attire. I wish I knew which museum I bought it in. It’s fabulous.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
What makes me laugh? I love crisp dialog, New Yorker magazine cartoons, and romantic comedies with zany situations. I also believe some folks are just born funny, and I happen to be blessed with several very funny friends.
What makes me cry? Mostly things that I find unfair—kids dying of terrible diseases, people’s homes burning down, homelessness. Sometimes I have burst into tears watching a certain commercial on TV, even when I know that I’m being manipulated.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Abraham Lincoln. He was absolutely brilliant, but his formal education was limited. He was also president during an incredibly challenging time in the history of the U.S. I’ve read, too, that he only slept for three hours a night. There are all sorts of things I would ask him about if I could.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy going to art shows, galleries, museums, costume exhibits, antique fairs, and vintage clothing shops. I also love to dance.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I adore mindless soap operas, romantic comedies, and anything silly. I’ve had friends actually turn to me and say, “I can’t believe you like that.” But I do.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favorite color is red—not to wear, but to look at. My office, though, is painted in “yang” colors—bright, bright white and silver. I love a lot of pop songs, especially those sung by girl bands, but for variety, I also like musical numbers. My favorite food? Ice-cream, of course.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t even imagine this, nor do I want to. Maybe I’d be an interior decorator, since I find it to be fun and stress-free.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would go out and have the most caloric meal in the world—a bacon burger, fries, profiteroles (see, ice-cream!), multiple Bloody Mary’s, and not worry at all about hitting the gym the next day.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Too soon for me to contemplate!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Thank you for asking, Fiona. Kindly see below. And thank you so very much for interviewing me!
My website is: https://DianaForbesNovels.com
My Twitter feed is: https://twitter.com/dianaforbes18